newsIsrael at War

AG orders ministries to prepare to enlist ultra-Orthodox to IDF

The Attorney General's Office warned against circumventing funding cuts to haredi yeshivot.

Gali Baharav-Miara, attorney general of Israel, speaks at Tel Aviv University, Sept. 28, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Gali Baharav-Miara, attorney general of Israel, speaks at Tel Aviv University, Sept. 28, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara in a letter sent on Sunday instructed the legal advisers at the ministries of education and defense to start planning for the recruitment of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, yeshivah students to the IDF.

The letter, signed by Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon, went out on the day a government measure delaying the draft of haredi men was set to expire, and after Israel’s High Court of Justice on Thursday issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the government from continuing to provide funds to haredi yeshivot.

Funds to those institutions were to be cut according to the number of their students under the age of 26 whose annual army deferments had expired and were thus eligible for the draft.

The education ministry was told to “refrain from taking any step to circumvent the interim order.” This includes trying to increase the “point value” for the students who are still eligible for funding (a point system is used to calculate the amount of money going to students and institutions), increasing alternative budgets, or by any other means.

In Baharav-Miara’s opinion, all such methods of compensation would constitute a violation of the High Court’s decision.

The letter was sent because, by the end of the month, the attorney general is required to provide the High Court with details of the steps the state has taken to comply with its order.

Currently, there are no plans to send the authorities into the yeshivot to catch draft dodgers and the pressure to be applied will be through cuts to the institutions’ budgets, the Walla news site reported.

Opposition in the coalition

Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition took issue with Baharav-Miara’s orders, which they considered high-handed, particularly after the High Court granted Netanyahu’s request for a 30-day extension to resolve the haredi recruitment issue.

“It is not clear what is so urgent for the attorney general to create a rift in Israeli society on the enlistment issue after the High Court granted the prime minister’s request to complete a recruitment outline within 30 days with an expanded bench of nine judges [to consider the outline]. The attorney general is not authorized to empty the High Court’s decisions of their content,” an official close to Netanyahu said.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Hanoch Milwidsky of Likud called for the attorney general’s dismissal. He also said that the subject should be off-limits in a time of war.

“Until the end of the war and the period of reconstruction after it, it is forbidden to initiate moves that will cause deep discord in Israeli society,” he said in a post to X.

The haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) warned Netanyahu that he has two weeks to find a solution or their communities’ rabbinical leadership will force them to quit his coalition, a threat that veered from most analysts’ views that the High Court order did not constitute an immediate threat to the government.

The prime minister promised he would find a way to compensate them for the budget cuts, though it wasn’t clear how he would do so.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox frown on army service, considering it a distraction from Torah study and a threat to their way of life. However, Oct. 7 has heightened the demands of the larger public that the ultra-Orthodox contribute their share to the defense of the nation.

The number of haredi men studying in yeshivot and eligible for IDF service is estimated at between 63,000 and 66,000. Since Oct. 7, 1,140 haredim have enlisted, of whom 600 were over the age of 26.

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